Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Your favorite half cafe / half bar / full restaurant has a new chef. The Royal has brought on Chef Cable Smith, who you may recognize from his time at RAMMY nominated Requin. While he has no interest in throwing out the Columbian inspired menu and starting fresh, he’s already made some changes to elevate that already good menu to something truly great.
What stands out most about Smith’s dishes is that he finds a way to innovate while still creating deliciously uncomplicated dishes. They’re the kind of plates you could easily see yourself making at home, if you had the know how and expertise. There’s no better example of this than the Kale Caesar, made with a charred corn dressing, it’s simple and fresh, but the dressing ads that smokey savory level that takes it one step further. The avocado, cotija cheese and arepa croutons certainly don’t hurt either.
Another example of his excellent use of corn is the pork belly. While this dish leans a little on the smaller side, it packs a huge punch. Chef created a base of Salvadoran street corn topped with hunks of crispy pork belly, picante dulce, ember roasted leeks and pickled onions. It’s a seriously magic mixture of sweet, meaty, savory and bright. It’s so good. It’s dumb good. You need to order it.
At this point, you could easily split those two dishes with a friend (they’re bigger than they seem) and call it a night, but then you’d miss out on 1. the fried chicken sandwich and 2. the shrimp and grits. Let’s tackle the sandwich first. Instead of having a huge hunk of fried breast meat, Chef lightly fries up a thin slice of chicken that’s topped with some pickled fresno, grilled cabbage and a jalapeño aioli. All of it is stacked on a bun that’s softer than clouds. Really tho, why aren’t we eating more cabbage? It’s amazing and we’re doing ourselves a disservice by ignoring it. It feels like fancy, elevated fried chicken is becoming more and more popular, and while I’m down with a bucket of Popeyes, if you’re in the mood for something with a little more kick than that, you really can’t go wrong with this.
If you know me at all (and I understand you don’t at all, but humor me) then you know that I’m incredibly picky when it comes to grits. Most places just don’t cook them right. It’s a huge texture issue and there’s nothing that puts me off more than a chef that cannot take the time to get it right. Chef Smith gets it right. His smoked cheddar grits are everything I want in life, the perfect balance of cheesy, without being a distracting cheese bomb. They perfectly compliment the shrimp, and the charred tomato nage and pickled chayote keep things nice, bright and fresh.
And while you’re sucking all of this down as if you’ve never had a solid meal before (at least, that’s how I eat it) you’re going to need some libations, and that’s where bar director Andrew Larsen comes in. Fresh off a stint at the Trump Hotel, Larsen has crafted a summer cocktail menu filled with crowd pleasers. Take the RHCP (that’s Red Hot Chili Passion fruit), a mixture of Peychaud’s aperitivo, rum coconut lime oleo, passion fruit and firewater it’s a sweet spicy blend that manages to be the perfect amount of boozy. If you’re looking for something even more tropical than that, grab the Peachy Keen with charred pineapple, peach, coconut and rum. Want something that could work as dessert? Go with the I Have a Dreamsicle which combines Plymouth Gin, Campari, passion fruit, cream and seltzer.
Finish it all off with a round of passion fruit tarts and you’re in good hands.